By Corrie Pelc
In December, Pocket residents Edmund and Jade Abay will celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of their restaurant, the Pocket Bistro.
Edmund says over the past two years, the restaurant has become a community fixture, making it a “meeting place for the community” where guests constantly run into people they know. “We give the community a place to call their own – if you live here in the Pocket, you know where Pocket Bistro is,” he adds.
This is one of the things long-time Pocket residents Marina and Jeff Armbruster love about the Pocket Bistro. The couple says they see people they know all the time at the restaurant. “It’s a neighborhood place,” Marina adds. The Armbrusters also enjoy the “friendly bar atmosphere” and “wonderful” food, especially the clam chowder.
The Abays had always dreamed of owning their own restaurant as both have experience in the restaurant industry.
Originally from the Bay Area, Edmund had received a degree from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1995, and then worked for a variety of restaurants in Washington, the Bay Area and Sacramento, from private-owned bistros to chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
Jade grew up in the Greenhaven Pocket area, having attended Genevieve Didion K-8 School and Sam Brannan Middle School. She says she worked at various restaurants all through high school and college, focusing on the front of the house duties such as bartending, serving, hostessing, and training serving staff.
Now raising their children in the Pocket since 2003, the Abays found themselves with an opportunity to make that dream a realty in their own community. “We felt there was a need in the neighborhood for (somewhere) the community (could) go to have a good meal, have a cocktail or a nice glass of wine, and not have to go all the way downtown,” Edmund says.
For the menu at the Pocket Bistro, Edmund says his motto is to keep it simple, straightforward, and good. That starts with the ingredients – Edmund says he looks for the best quality at the best price so he can give his customers the best value.
Additionally, he strives to satisfy the tastes of the various ethnicities in the Pocket through the menu. “We have a large Asian community, we have a large Portuguese community, there’s a lot of meat and potatoes out there,” Edmund explains. He says he tries to satisfy all the diverse tastes through a smaller menu with specials that help add variety.
Edmund says some of the popular items on the menu include the braised short ribs and the skirt steak that he says is marinated in an Asian “sweet soy” marinade. Scallops, halibut, rib-eye and prime rib are popular items occasionally on the specials menu.
In addition to its lunch and dinner menus, the Pocket Bistro now offers a brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering items such as salmon eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy, and omelets. “We wanted a place on Sunday where you can enjoy brunch and not have to go all the way to downtown or to Elk Grove,” Edmund says.
And for the sweet tooth, Pocket Bistro offers a dessert menu with all items made in house and from scratch by a pastry chef. “We wanted to stay away from purchasing outside of the restaurant for our desserts and keep everything in house – that was very important to me to make sure that we try to make everything in house,” Edmund says. And he says again items on the dessert menu – such as the coconut bread pudding – reflect the various tastes of the Pocket community.
When developing the menus for the Pocket Bistro, the Abays also decided to include a kids’ menu. “In the Pocket, there are so many young families with children, (and) ourselves, we have three young kids,” Edmund says. “We wanted to also give the value there for the kids.”
Kids can choose from a kid-friendly item like chicken tenders or grilled cheese, plus they receive a potato, vegetable, drink and dessert. All of this is served on a ceramic “TV dinner tray,” which Edmund says gives it a unique twist.
For first-time Pocket Bistro diner Michelle Miranda, the kids’ menu offered her a “good value to enjoy dinner together” with her husband, two children and dining companion Anna San Juan, who was the one who had suggested they dine at the Pocket Bistro that evening.
San Juan describes the Pocket Bistro as a convenient, family place that offers “nice dinner cuisine” in the middle of the neighborhood. Both Miranda and San Juan plan to come back to the Pocket Bistro.
Additionally, Jade says they feel they give the Pocket community “somewhere they can take their friends and family to eat when they’re in town – they don’t have to go all the way to downtown.”
Pocket resident Loretta Manfre agrees. A frequent diner at the Pocket Bistro, on this particular evening she was happy to have a place to take her friend visiting from Saratoga. Manfre says the Pocket Bistro “brings upscale dining” to the neighborhood, which is “something we have needed for a long time.” Yet, she says it’s still “casual enough you can just call and walk in.”
So what does the future hold for the Pocket Bistro?
In the near future, the Abays plan to expand offering brunch to Saturday as well as Sunday. Edmund plans to expand the menu a bit more by adding some specials that have proved to be very popular. “That’s what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, you find out what the community is responding to – is it more seafood, is it more meat,” he explains.
And Jade says they plan on keeping things fresh, fun and exciting to “keep everybody on their toes.” “We don’t want anybody to get bored, so we definitely have ideas for the future,” she adds.